Tuesday, May 31, 2022

'Attention to Detail': Texans Impressed With New Offense Under Pep Hamilton


Throughout the first several practices, the Texans have been high on the play design of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton



MAY 30, 2022


HOUSTON -- It was always going to be Pep Hamilton for the Houston Texans on offense. The question was who would serve as the offensive coordinator's head coach in 2022. 

Following the development of quarterback Davis Mills, the Texans were keen on keeping Hamilton on staff as the new offensive boss. He interviewed for several coordinator positions in the offseason, but with a son starring in Texas high school football, Hamilton wanted to remain in Houston to be close to his family. 

Four months following the promotions of head coach Lovie Smith and Hamilton, Houston is seeing the results it has been hoping for at OTAs. There's a sense of urgency on offense, perhaps one that wasn't there under former offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and head coach David Culley. 

Players have seen Hamilton's play design both in the film room and on the practice field. The consensus impression is that Hamilton isn't in over his head. This isn't his first rodeo commanding the offense. 

"Pep, he is special and a great mind," receiver Brandin Cooks said. "I’ve got a lot of trust in him and just trying to help him be right. We love going to work with him every day.”

Pep Hamilton

Pep Hamilton

Pep Hamilton

The development of quarterbacks has played a pivotal role throughout Hamilton's career. He helped Andrew Luck become a star in Stanford's offense and later the No. 1 pick. The two would reunite in Indianapolis, where Luck put up career numbers on the way to an AFC Championship appearance in 2014

Prior to arriving in Houston, Hamilton served as the quarterbacks coach with the Los Angeles Chargers. By Week 2, Los Angeles was forced to play then-rookie Justin Herbert with little experience. By the season's conclusion, Herbert broke every rookie passing record on the way to becoming league's Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

Mills is a different story than both Luck and Herbert. The fellow Pac-12 passers were selected in the top 10 of their drafts. Mills, who broke the Texans' rookie passing record in 2021, was selected in the third round. Should he improve in 2022, the Texans have something in the works for the first time in the post-Deshaun Watson era. 

If not? No harm, no foul. 

One area of improvement for Houston late was at quarterback. Mills finished the final five games of the regular season with a 2-3 record while throwing for 1,258 yards while completing 68.2 percent of his throws. He posted a 9:2 touchdown to interception ratio and finished with a rookie-high 103.9 passer rating. 

"He’s going to be an excellent quarterback in the NFL for a lot of years, but it’s about this year," Smith said. "Having a year, he and Pep Hamilton getting on the same page with our offense, and him being in a role from the start, that’s different also. But that’s what you do."

Cooks and Mills are two players who have become accustomed to working with Hamilton and understand his demeanor. New names, such as offensive lineman A.J. Cann, are just getting introduced to the architect of the Texans offense, though it has gone so smoothly that one would think he's been a part of the process for years. 

"He’s a very detailed coach," Cann said. "He shares a lot of information, but he makes sure we all know what we are doing, each and every day. It doesn’t matter what it is. 

"He’s going to make sure we have a meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page and that’s what you need in an offensive coordinator.”

Under Hamilton, Houston is hoping for better results after mediocre production last season. The Texans finished bottom-five in every offensive category, including 32nd in total offense and run offense. Houston hit new lows in the run game, averaging a franchise-worst 3.2 yards per run.

The Texans return for the second stage of OTAs starting Wednesday, June 1.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Rookie Minicamp Day 2 Notes


May 14th, 2022

Today was the final day for media availability at Bucs rookie minicamp. There is a closed minicamp/underwear football practice scheduled for tomorrow but often those are just enough to get the players to break a sweat — if they are held at all.

For many of the rookies, today is the final time Joe will see them on a Bucs practice field. For several, their football careers end tomorrow.

But let’s not be dour. Joe has a few highlights from today.

* Jerreth Sterns, who caught passes from Bailey Zappe at Western Kentucky and put up insane numbers, plays larger than his 5-9 frame. In an offensive drill, he meandered around a couple of tackling dummies and was heading for the far left corner of the end zone when the pass headed his way was overthrown. He skied and sold out for the ball and caught it with both hands as he tumbled to the ground. Nice job. Bucs coach Todd Bowles said after practice that Sterns has flashed and the number of catches he made in college proves his durability. In four seasons at Western Kentucky (1) and Houston Baptist (3), Sterns had 370 catches for 3,873 yards and 35 touchdowns in 41 games.

* In a seven-on-seven drill, tight end Ko Kieft took a pass over the left seams. Not only did he look smooth doing it, when he turned upfield he just didn’t tuck the ball away, he covered it up with both arms as he squared his shoulders with the line and leaned forward as if ready to get hit. Even in underwear football, Kieft was expecting violence. Solid fundamentals.

* Tight end Ben Biese (Wisconsin-River Falls) catches a quick slat from the left from Peyton Ramsey (Northwestern).

* Aqeel Glass (Alabama A&M) with a beautiful pass about 20 yards down the left seam that dropped in the bucket for tight end Sean Dykes (Memphis) who got a half-step past double-coverage.

* Ramsey to Jace Jordan (West Georgia) to the right sideline out of the backfield and Bronson Massie (Kansas State) races over for the touch tackle. Remember, this is underwear football where there is no hitting or tackling of any sort.

* Glass on a coverage sack. He backpedaled escaping pressure but no one was open.

* Kieft tries to catch a very high but short pass down the right seam that bounces off his hands high in the air and J.J. Russell (Memphis) nearly had a pick.

* Glass makes up for it on the next play with a pass in the numbers to Kieft, short right in traffic.

* Devin Thompkins (Utah State), from Fort Myers, skies high for a catch on the right side.

* Patrick Laird (California) looks very smooth coming out of the backfield to his right to haul in a pass.

* Glass drops the snap and tries to get the pass to the left for an open Sterns. But in rush to get rid of the ball, Glass didn’t have enough mustard on the pass and it falls short.

* Joe isn’t sure if this is bad or good. As Ramsey rolls right, Sterns hits the turf near the right sideline. Ramsey still throws the ball to Sterns and the pass hits Sterns in the numbers as he’s sitting on the ground.

* Kieft is getting open play after play.

* Glass would have had his world lit up if there was hitting. A linebacker came racing up the middle untouched and since it is underwear football, the linebacker pulled up at last second to avoid blowing this guy up to kingdom come. The linebacker? DeCalon Brooks.


THIS WEEK IN TWITTER: A Look Back at Andy Katzenmoyer


By Bruce Thomas on May 14, 2022 at 2:35 pm



This Week in Twitter is a look at some of the week's best and most entertaining tweets from Buckeyeland and beyond.

Former Ohio State tight end and 2002 national champion Ben Hartsock reminded us how great All-American linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer was during his Buckeye career.

Another member of the 2002 national championship team, linebacker Cie Grant, concurred with Hartsock

Browns legend Phil Dawson schools Cade York on kicking in Cleveland | Jeff Schudel’s Cleveland Beat


Cade York prepares to kick during rookie minicamp May 13. (Brian Fisher – For The News-Herald)

By JEFF SCHUDEL | | The News-Herald

PUBLISHED: May 14, 2022 at 3:05 p.m. | UPDATED: May 14, 2022 at 3:06 p.m.


Phil Dawson kicked for the Browns from 1999-2012, and then his former team spent the next 10 years fruitlessly trying to find a reliable replacement.

At last, the search might be over.

Two hundred sixty-two players were selected in the 2022 draft, and only one was a kicker. The Browns used pick 124 to draft Cade York from LSU. They took him with one of the three picks acquired from Houston when they traded the 44th overall pick to the Texans.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer took York to FirstEnergy Stadium on May 13, the first day of rookie minicamp, so York could get acclimated to kicking on the Browns’ home turf. The weather conditions will be much different in November and December, but York had to start his pro career somewhere.

“It was awesome,” York said before the rest of the team practiced at the team’s training complex in Berea. “I got to get in there and see what the wind is like and kicked a few balls.  It was pretty nice (weather), nicer than most games at LSU, honestly, so I’m excited to see what it’s like when it’s windy.”

York said he spoke with Dawson for about 30 or 40 minutes by phone May 6. After 14 years in a Browns uniform, in which he scored 1,271 points, Dawson kicked four additional seasons with the 49ers and then two more with the Cardinals. Dawson’s wisdom is something a coach can’t teach.

“I think that’s great,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after practice May 13. “Phil has been an outstanding ambassador for our team and certainly our specialists. To be able to connect with Phil and talk through FirstEnergy Stadium is an important part of it.”

Dawson, 47, has gone full circle. After living in Nashville for two years, he and his family now live in Austin, Texas, where Dawson made his mark kicking for the Texas Longhorns. Dawson is in his first year as head football coach of Hyde Park School in Austin.

“He kind of went through some of the stuff that he did, plant cleats, talked about the wind a little bit, different types of conditions,” York said. “Everyone has their own style of going about things, but it was cool to pick his brain about a few things.

“He just mentioned that there are going to be days that are tough. You just got to go out there and hit a true ball. You’ve got to be OK with not hitting it right down the middle every time, just have confidence in what you do and not every kick is going to be the same. He said people would be mentioning the flag.”

Kicking was and remains a science to Dawson. Kicking toward the goal post in front of the Dawg Pound at the eastern end of FirstEnergy Stadium challenges all kickers, but Dawson learned the best way to judge the wind speed was to watch a flag in the southwest corner of the end zone.

“Early in my time in Cleveland, I noticed that days when the wind was out of the southwest, it was a brutal day to kick,” Dawson told Dawgs by Nature in 2020. “I needed some sort of gauge of how hard the wind was entering the southwest tunnel of the stadium.

“I asked Chris Powell, our grounds crew leader, if he could get some sort of flag up. The next home game, there it was. I believe it’s still there to this day, but with the stadium renovations, I don’t think that Southwest tunnel is as big as it used to be.”

Dawson revealed he also got some help from an unlikely source — a former Secret Service sniper who worked security for the Browns.

“Ken Rundle, former Secret Service sniper, taught me that the angle a flag is blowing, if you divide by four, that’s the approximate wind speed. I took his word for it,” he said.

Dawson wanted to stay with the Browns after 2012, but rather than sign him to an extension, former Browns head of football operations Joe Banner let Dawson leave through free agency in 2013. Had he stayed with the Browns, even for only 2013, Dawson would have broken Lou Groza’s franchise scoring record of 1,349 points. Dawson is only 78 points shy of the record.

The list of kickers in the post-Dawson era is long. Billy Cundiff kicked in 2013 and 2014. Travis Coons was the kicker in 2015. Cody Parkey was one and done in 2016, and then Zane Gonzalez kicked in 2017. Greg Joseph was the kicker in 2018.

Austin Seibert, drafted by the Browns in the fifth round in 2019, handled the kicking duties his rookie year and was cut after one game in 2020 — Stefanski’s first year as head coach. Parkey returned to Cleveland and kicked the final 15 games of 2020 and then was beaten out by Chase McLaughlin last summer. McLaughlin was waived after York was drafted.

Iowa Football: Tyler Linderbaum named recipient of Iowa's Big Ten Medal of Honor



May 14, 11:14 AM

It has been quite the year and career for Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. On Friday, he added another huge accolade to his long list of achievements when he was named Iowa's male recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor.

The Big Ten Medal of Honor is the conference’s most exclusive award, and the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.”

Linderbaum is an enterprise leadership major from Solon, Iowa. He earned unanimous consensus All-America honors at center for the Hawkeyes in 2022, becoming the 12th Hawkeye to earn that distinction. Linderbaum became Iowa’s first recipient of the Rimington Trophy. He was also named the Rimington-Pace Big Ten Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year while earning first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight season.


Linderbaum started 35 consecutive games at center for the Hawkeyes after playing as a defensive lineman as a true freshman. He was one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Linderbaum was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft – 25th pick overall – last month.


"It's funny, every draft is different. Every team is different in how they do it. But Tyler is kind of unusual," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I told the guys at pro day, there's really not a lot to tell you because everything he is, it's on film. I guess his arms weren't quite as long as somebody wants. We have a lot of guys like that, too. Had a bunch of them. (Brandon) Scherff just signed a pretty good contract. I'd rather have a guy that has his arms half an inch short that can actually block guys trying to block them.


"Everything he does, his résumé is on film. You meet the guy, had a couple teams comment on what their interview was like. One guy said he could probably coach our offensive line. It was that detailed, that thorough."

Linderbaum will go down as one of Iowa's best offensive linemen in the Ferentz era. Now, he begins the challenge of emerging as one of the NFL's best centers, which some believe can happen after his rookie season. 

"You're talking about one of the best technicians – strong, physical, tough, quick-footed," Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said last week. "Somebody said it on TV, I think; if he was an inch taller and his arms were a half-inch longer, he would've been a Top 5 pick, and I believe that. He's probably one of the better centers we've seen come out in a long time."

Monday, May 09, 2022

Grinding The Tape: Bucs TE Kieft Edition

By Joshua Queipo | May. 6, 2022

Certain players transcend their role and impact. Through their dynamic personality, commitment to their limited role, or some other factor, some guys become Bucs fan favorites even if they aren’t elite or great all-around players.

You will often hear attributes like “gritty” and “grinder” associated with them. They aren’t the fastest or most athletic. But they wind up with some of your favorite highlight reel plays because they do one thing well and usually are willing to sacrifice more than the guy they are facing to succeed. Well Bucs fans, allow me to introduce you to “exhibit A” for your 2022 Tampa Bay Bucs: Ko Kieft.

Kieft was a surprise selection for most and was not on anyone’s “Big Board” when the Bucs traded up to select him in the sixth round. But at that point in the draft team draft boards will differ greatly from public one’s as they tend to hone-in on very specific skill sets that their particular teams needed. Enter Kieft who is known for one thing and one thing only. The man is committed solely to the craft of blocking. And it was for this reason the Bucs drafted him.

So, let’s dive in and see what specifically the Bucs saw in Kieft.

Technical Blocker

I kind of gave it away in the intro, didn’t I? No matter. A simple Google search would have given it away. But you come to Pewter Report for more detail than that. And detail you shall have! Let’s go to clip one.

Kieft is lined up at the bottom of the offensive line as a wing back. As soon as the ball is snapped, he knows exactly where he wants to get to as he fires off the line towards his assignments inside shoulder. He gets to his mark and explodes from a leveraged position up and out to create a seal and blocking his guy out from the line. This creates an ideal seam for Minnesota’s running back to run through and get to the second level.

While this is a play that will end up on a highlight reel at the end of the game, this block would not be the featured part of the play. But it is important to remember 95% of blocking isn’t and shouldn’t be a highlight in and of itself. It’s the technical aspect of football that allows highlights to occur. Get to your mark before your opponent does, gain leverage, control your man. Kieft executes his assignment in masterclass fashion. The Bucs have to love seeing plays like this.

Becoming A Bully

Did the last clip leave you wanting? Technically sound, pancake-less blocks not your thing? Was it boring? Well, I am working towards a crescendo that will be worth the wait so bear with me. Clip two will show Kieft can go beyond the simple, technically sound block.

Are you starting to get more excited? Here you see Kieft build off of his technical prowess and add some real oomph. In this play Kieft is lined up outside the left tackle (on the right of your screen). Again, he fires off to attack his man going forward. However, there is a big difference in what Kieft is being asked to do this time that allows him to have more fun.

This time instead of walling off to isolate his man away from the play, he gets to engage his lower half and drive through 6-foot-6, 270-pound Zach Harrison (No. 9). By the time Harrison was able to get off the ride the return period had elapsed, and he was not allowed to get his money back. Plays like these show Bucs coaches that Kieft is dedicated to this craft and consistently successful.

Life Coach

Sometimes people are called to a higher walk of life. They are destined to help others become the best versions of themselves. Some people are gifted at helping those around them find their true callings. Kieft may be one of those lucky few.

When you watch this clip, you will see many and assume many things. You will see Kieft lined up at the bottom of your screen in a wing back position just outside the right tackle. Then you will see him lock up linebacker Dallas Gant. Following this, you will see him then win the leverage battle, push through Gant’s reach and get a strong grip at his chest. Finally, you will then see him manhandle Gant forwards, backwards, and side-to-side for a total of 10 to 12 yards before depositing Gant on his back – in the backfield!

And you will assume things like “he stole Gant’s soul!” or “he broke his spirit.” But I will offer up a different narrative for what happened on this play. Kieft knew that football was not the path Gant needed to devote his life to. And so, he set out to have a heart-to-heart with Gant. He wanted to talk with Gant about his hopes, his dreams, and what he wanted to get out of this life. Kieft helped Gant realize that his true path in life was that of an accountant. Immediately following this play Gant gave up football forever, changed majors, and dedicated himself to helping others understand the difference between deductible and non-deductible expenditures.

(*For the record, I have no actual knowledge this took place, but it seems entirely plausible based on the length of time from start to finish of this delicious pancake.)

Understanding The Why

The Bucs drafted Ko Kieft to do one thing and do it well. He is an elite blocker at the tight end position. These players aren’t sexy. But they are useful. They have an important place on a team’s roster.

And rather than try a dart throw for a player at a different position with a tool or two that you hope develops, the Bucs decided to use their newly acquired sixth -round pick on a guy who will have a specific, defined role that they are very confident he can execute from day one. There is value in that. Kieft is going to pave the way to becoming a fan favorite.


Ravens coach John Harbaugh says 'well-schooled' Tyler Linderbaum has mental edge over most rookies


Published: May 07, 2022 at 06:31 PM

Michael Baca

Digital Content Producer

The Ravens' offensive line woes in 2021 went hand in hand with the team's first playoff-less season with Lamar Jackson at the helm.


Baltimore is hoping its offseason upgrades in 2022 turn the tide for a unit that finished 31st in the NFL with 57 sacks allowed. One of those additions, first-round pick Tyler Linderbaum, is in position to fill the most glaring hole at center.


Speaking at the team's rookie minicamp on Saturday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he believes Linderbaum's past experience gives him an edge as a rookie.


"I think he's in a good spot because he played center his whole career," said Harbaugh, via the team website. "Kirk Ferentz is an O-line coach and he always has great O-line coaches at Iowa, so he's well-schooled that way just like all the Iowa offensive lineman. The other part of that is that it's a challenge because now it's pro football and he's got a lot to learn. So, how fast he progresses with that will probably be the main thing in terms of whether he starts or not or how we do it. We have other guys, too. Pat Mekari. I talked to Pat about his role, right, and so Pat is going to have a big role with us. However it shakes out, how it shakes out, time will tell."


Replacing last year's starting center, Bradley Bozeman, will be a tall task for the rookie out of Iowa. Bozeman was one of the Ravens' most consistent O-lineman for a unit that saw its fair share of injuries. Linderbaum feels up to the task of becoming the Ravens next starting center for years to come but is anxious to get up to speed with the veterans.


"Once the older guys get in here I'm going to soak in as much as I can from them," Linderbaum said. "Especially just understanding the offense, understanding their communication. We're with a bunch of rookies right now, so, who knows, I could be running everything wrong right now compared to what the older guys do.


"I think with just the center position comes leadership. You're the guy who has to put people in the right positions and make the right calls. I've been playing center for awhile now and I think it just comes natural to me."


In addition to drafting Linderbaum, the Ravens also signed veteran tackle Morgan Moses to either lockdown the right tackle spot for the now retired Alejandro Villanueva or boost a strong depth chart. With stalwart left tackle Ronnie Stanley looking to return back healthy from a season-ending injury and tackle Ja'Wuan James fixing to return after missing the entire 2021 season, the Ravens and Jackson should be excited for the potential of their O-line going forward.


At 6-foot-2, what Linderbaum lacks in size he makes up for in aggressiveness. The athletic 22-year-old excelled as a run blocker within a run-heavy Iowa program and finished his senior season as the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year.


Running the football has become a specialty in Baltimore since Jackson took over in 2018, and Linderbaum is seemingly the perfect fit to help get the Ravens back in order.


"At the end of the day, football is football," Linderbaum said of adjusting to the pro game and snapping in the shotgun. "We're running similar stuff, there's just a lot different verbiage. That's something we're trying to get done right now -- just understanding the verbiage, communication. I thought it's been good. But also, we're only running 10 percent of the plays that we run during the season, so there's a lot more that I need to learn. But I think it's a good start so far."

Friday, May 06, 2022

Tyler Linderbaum Impacts Hometown


Former Hawkeye a Hit in Solon


May 6, 2022

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum warms up before a game against Kent State on Sept. 18, 2021 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Rob Howe/

Mention the name Tyler Linderbaum to a youngster in Solon and chances are you’ll get a smile and a pair of bright eyes in return.

Linderbaum is more in this town of 3,000 than bragging rights, a consensus all-America center at Iowa and a first-round NFL Draft pick. He is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound giant of an idol.

“Absolutely he is a role model,” Solon Mayor Steve Stange said. “A humble person that worked very hard for what he’s achieved.”

No one understands the importance of a positive role model more than Dr. Davis Eidahl, Superintendent of Schools for the Solon Community School District.

“His work ethic, enthusiasm, commitment and how he treated others represents the values we do our best to promote in Solon Schools,” Eidahl said.

Adam Haluska once had similar role model status in his home town of Carroll, where his skill and drive took him from high school star to an all-Big Ten basketball player at Iowa and a second-round NBA Draft pick.

Now Adam, his wife, Kendra, and their four children live in Solon. Adam is a financial advisor in Coralville and is vice president of the Board of Education in Solon. And he can’t say enough good things about Tyler Linderbaum.

“He’s been so special with young kids,” Haluska said.

The Linderbaum Fan Club starts in the Haluska household. When Tyler sold sweatshirts and t-shirts in his likeness last season, after NIL legislation was passed, the Haluskas were good customers.

“That was a big deal in Solon,” Haluska said. “My kids have like every designed sweatshirt they came out with.”

And like many youngsters in Solon, the Haluska’s three oldest children were huddled around the television as the NFL Draft unfolded on April 28. Jerzey, Jace and Jett, ages 13 to 7, were anxiously waiting to see where Linderbaum would go.

But as the draft reached the midway portion of the first round, Adam ended the party. It’s a school night, kids, time for bed.

“I felt bad not letting them stay up,” Adam said. “I told them, “I’ll let you know in the morning where he gets drafted.”

The next morning, Haluska shared with his kids that Tyler had gone to Baltimore with the 25th pick of the first round.

“We don’t have professional sports here,” Haluska said. “When you’ve got a local kid, and a Hawkeye, who makes it on the big stage, it’s big news.”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Linderbaum and his parents, Lisa and Todd, are quick to mention a long line of positive family traits - hard-working and humble are at the top of the list.

“Todd and I went to school together, and you will not find a kinder family than Todd and Lisa Linderbaum,” Stange said.

Todd Linderbaum’s parents were popular teachers in the Solon school system.

“Two teachers that every single student loved,” Stange said. “So when you’re surrounded with the love, encouragement and family history of being a good person, you are instantly a role model on how to live your life and treat people. To see that type of person in our community be successful is something very special and we are proud of him and wish him nothing but success.”

Tyler made $30,000 from the sale of his NIL merchandise. He donated that money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. A picture of Tyler posing in front of the hospital with an oversized check gives a real-life example to Stange’s words.

“Anybody in town would tell you he has great parents and comes from a great family,” Haluska said. “So it’s not a surprise to see all the things he’s done with charity in and around Iowa.”

Linderbaum’s role model status in Solon is not a new trend.

“Tyler was an extraordinary role model for our students and student-athletes during his time in Solon,” Eidahl said. “He always remained humble and respectful, regardless of his successes and accolades. He led without even speaking through his work ethic and enthusiasm. It was easy to see how much he loved “playing,” whether it was a practice or a game. He took time to visit elementary school for various reasons during his high school years, which was always a favorite for the young kids to see.”

At Solon, kids are encouraged to compete in as many sports as possible. Linderbaum was a poster child for that. He lettered four times in baseball and three times in football, wrestling and track and field. He also played basketball before turning to wrestling.

“He was an unbelievable basketball player,” Haluska said. “I remember playing in a pickup game with him right after the wrestling season had ended. I’m thinking, 'This guy hasn’t picked up a basketball in a year or so, he just got done competing at state in wrestling and he looked like he totally fit out there.’ ”

As Linderbaum competed at Solon, he also set an example for future Spartans.

“He demonstrated, for our middle school and high school student-athletes, the importance of having fun and enjoying the opportunities you have in front of you,” Eidahl said. “He proved that you don’t have to specialize in one sport to be successful.”

Coaches at Solon have used Linderbaum as an example to encourage kids to play multiple sports.

“His success also demonstrates that hard work, commitment and caring for others will lead to big things,” Eidahl said.

When Linderbaum was in high school, the Haluskas and other neighbors hired him to dress up as Santa Claus and walk down a path behind their homes, ringing bells and shouting “Ho, Ho, Ho” to entertain the kids.

Santa Claus is now a first-round NFL Draft pick. Leading up to the draft, analysts pick apart prospects looking for faults. In Linderbaum’s case, there was speculation that his arms were too short to play center in the NFL.

“They talk about short arms, and this and that,” Haluska said. “ But that dude can play football. And he’s got a motor that’s not going to quit. I think those guys (Baltimore) knew that just from watching tape that they were going to get someone special, and he’ll do big things at that level.”

Solon’s hometown hero is about to enter football’s biggest arena. But those that know him predict his heart will stay home.

“I think he’ll be a big part of Solon moving forward,” Haluska said. “And that’s what makes this town special.”


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